Outgoing governor general Julie Payette will still receive her six-figure annual pension despite resigning this week amid a “scathing” report on the workplace she led, Canada’s intergovernmental affairs minister says.
Speaking to Mercedes Stephenson on The West Block, Dominic LeBlanc pointed out that the hefty annuity, which will last for the rest of Payette’s life, is “a function of law” and will not be waived despite her unprecedented resignation and the allegations against her.
Yet he added that other perks, including an annual expense account, will be subject to the Treasury Board’s review process.
“We think Canadians expect a high degree of transparency and rigor with respect to any of these benefits,” LeBlanc said.
“So the Treasury Board will continue to look at what’s appropriate, but the retirement allowance is prescribed by law and that that’s exactly what she’ll receive.”
The Governor General Act states that former governors general are entitled to an annuity for the rest of their lives, which in Payette’s case is believed to be in the ballpark of $150,000.
It’s unclear what the expenses program, which is separate from the pension, would cost taxpayers or if there are any limits to what can be claimed.
A spokesperson for the Office of the Secretary for the Governor General told Global News Friday that the program is meant to support former governors general “for their activities related to their former role” as leading figures in Canada.
Payette resigned Thursday after a review into allegations that she fostered a toxic, harassing work environment at Rideau Hall was completed. LeBlanc said he received the investigation report at the end of the previous week, which sources told Global News was “scathing.”
“I reviewed it over the weekend and the prime minister also saw it,” he said. There were then “conversations” with Payette on Tuesday and Wednesday, when she spoke with Trudeau about the report.
“On Thursday, she decided to offer her resignation, which we thought was in the best interest of the institution and of the country, and allows the employees of Rideau Hall to have an appropriate workplace, and it allows a renewal of the leadership of this important institution.”
LeBlanc said there are plans to “quickly” release the report to the public, but admitted it will be redacted to some extent to protect the privacy of Rideau Hall employees who spoke to investigators.
The workplace allegations, along with reports about Payette’s past behaviour before becoming governor general, have prompted concerns about the vetting process Trudeau’s office conducted prior to her appointment.
LeBlanc said discussions have already been had with officials in charge of vetting future governors general to ensure the process is “strengthened” and “reinforced.”
“This process can be improved,” he admitted.
He was quick to defend the staff at Rideau Hall, some of whom he said have been serving there since his father, Roméo LeBlanc, was governor general from 1995 to 1999.
“Without exception, these were and are extraordinary people,” he said. “They were so kind to my father when he was there. So we want to make sure these people have a safe, healthy and respectful workplace, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”
LeBlanc was more forthcoming than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was on Friday about the futures of both Payette and the governor general position.
Trudeau, who would not apologize or express regret for Payette’s appointment, said his team was “looking right now at processes that can be strengthened” in regard to the vetting process but would not say if the expense program will also be changed.
“This country has very clear rules and regulations and processes and procedures in place to follow in these cases of reporting expenses or indeed on annuities for governor generals,” Trudeau said.
“Those processes will be followed but obviously we’re always open to having discussions on changes that need to be made moving forward.”